Smirnoff AA/FD

History

The Cars

2014 Events

2014 Media

Event Photos

Guidelines

 How Safe?

Contact

 

 History

 

Drag Racer Magazine 1967
October 1967

 

Written By Don Prieto in 1967:

"Air Force niner seven one, this is Lockheed EX-SR7I. Am on a heading of 209% speed approaching an indicated mach three, altitude 90,000. Over."

This type of lingo is common everyday conversation for Daryl Greenamyer as he performs his present duties as test pilot for the new SR71 twin jet now being built by Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank. Up until recently Daryl has had as his hobby the sport of air racing. He owns and maintains two propeller-driven aircraft. One is a Lockheed P-38 twin-engine second world war fighter plane similar to the ones used successfully in the Ploesti raid. The other plane is a highly modified Grumman Bearcat. Sponsored by Smirnoff, it is the fastest prop plane in the world today. Daryl's aviation background extends back further than he likes to admit. His first ride came in his dad's airplane the age of ten. Since that time he has spent untold hours disturbing the air currents. An eight-year stint in the Air National Guard exposed Daryl to his first jet, an F86A. Of these eight years he spent one full year flying the latest F100A for the Tactical Air Command in Tucson, Arizona. After discharge Daryl was sent to test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base where he underwent checkout procedure for the F104 Starfighter. He's now attached to the Kelly Johnson Division at Lockheed Aircraft where he tests the aforementioned SR71.

 

 

How Daryl met Dave Zeuschel and ended up drag racing is another story in itself, but for practicality and with space limited let it be known that they met at the air races.

Zeuschel enticed Daryl into making a trek to Lions Drag Strip with him to view the Andre, Trapp and Glenn (Zeuschel-engined) AA fueler in action. After the first pass Daryl was turned on. "I gotta have one of them," said he. "Greenwell, mah boy," said Davey in his W. C. Fields manner, "ya better stick to airplanes. These things go too faast for you." The wheels in Greenamyer's head were smoking. He had a plan. Since the airplane was sponsored by Smirnoff and it took very little to maintain it, why not approach the company on the idea of a dragster and use some of the plane's budget to build and maintain it. He then approached Mr. Ralph Hart, Chairman of the Board for Smirnoff. Using a rendering and brochure prepaid by Steve' Swaja, Daryl began his sell.

After the presentation, and the explanation of what a dragster was, Daryl's plans were okayed with one exception. The sponsorship would have its own budget and the Bearcat would keep its present status.

Daryl explained the relative ease with which he achieved the sponsorship: "The man digs racing".

Greenamyer set about the plans of building the car. Zeuschel was selected as the man for the motor, naturally, and Roy Fijasted of Speed Products Engineering contracted the chassis work. Swaja did a finish drawing for Bob Sorrell to do the body work and the construction began.

Some six weeks passed in the building stage and Daryl was getting anxious. Tom Larkin let Daryl take an easy run in the gasser at the Hot Rod meet and it impressed him. What would the fueler be like? He was then permitted a pass in the Andre and Trapp car. "Sumptin else!" For the first time in quite a spell there was a machine that teetered on the edge of control. Things happened faster than he realized.

The new car was now ready, and a beautiful sight it was. A fresh pearl-white and blue paint job with mother of pearl inlay in both the nose and tail was the work of a spray man who goes by the name of Reuben. A big Z on the chrome Chrysler valve cover signified horsepower.

 

 

The maiden voyage was set for the NHRA points meet in Las Vegas. Zeuschel prepped the powerplant as crewmen made preflight checks on the new car-tightening bolts, steering arm nuts, verifying tire pressure, chute pack. . . Greenamyer was ready. A healthy push down the fire-up road brought the big Chrysler to life. The starting procedure having been overemphasized by the "experts" Daryl paid most of his attention to staging and bringing the r's up. He gave it full throttle as seen in the color action photo and the tires boiled. About three hundred feel out, the rear end slipped sideways, he lifted, straightened out and stabbed it again. He cleared the lights at 183 mph.

 


Darryl Greenamyer's - "Smirnoff" - AA/FD - Las Vegas, 1967
Photo by Don Prieto

 

I asked Daryl to give the readers a comparison between the flying of a fast airplane and driving a fast car.

He obliged. "There is a tremendous difference between the two. First of all, I've been flying all my life and have conditioned reflexes. I know what to do to correct a situation almost on instinct in the airplane, but this car is quite different. I'm still way behind what's happening. The car is much smoother than I thought it would be and the G forces are far less than, say, in an F-104 on takeoff. The speed of the machine impressed me though, since the tracks are much smaller than anything I'm used to, and the light standards give me a quick reference for speed."

I asked Daryl to tell us in summary just what was his first impression of a fuel dragster ride.

He replied, "It left me breathless."


Pat Foster adds the rest of the story with some little known background history:

To add to Prieto's comments about the Smirnoff, Sorrell deal, Sorrell was an odd sort, very talented but odd. The car went to him for the body and it took too long, the delays caused by who knows, so Zuech, Daryl, Roy were justifiably upset during the ordeal but the work spoke for it's self. In the course of the body fabrication Bob (Sorrell) decided the roll bar was too high and at the wrong angle for how he felt the body should appear. Race cars are a strange breed when it comes to form and function. Car builders, as a rule think and cater to function and also as a rule the body masters will tend to put form ahead of function. Sorrell took that at least one step too far when without informing any of the principals of his decision, he cut off the entire cage, built the rear half of the body, never reattached the cage in anyway and told them to come get er' - it's it's a wrap. Roy went insane, blamed Zuech as much as Sorrell, Zuech shrugged and said we'll get a smaller driver. and Daryl (who was small) thought she looked bitchin and finished it the way she sat!

'Z' had asked me to do the testing but I no longer fit in the car, so they hired Larry Dixon Sr. (which was a squeeze). He hated to drive it... too small and Daryl never really fit either. I guess Sorrel's multitude of shop cats really liked the cut off cage! <G> (those who hung at Sorrell's will totally understand that last statement!).

 


 

 

This is the first known photo of the Smirnoff after its maden outing in Vegas. Larry Dixon in the seat durning the 1967 March Meet.

 

Daryl Greenamyer -"Smirnoff" - AA/FD - Irwindale, 1967
Tom West Photo

 

 

Dave Zeuschel tweaking the barrel valve at OCIR in 1967. This was one of the first outings for the car.

 

 

In 1967, at the first PDA race at Lions, Smirnoff proved that it wasn't just another pretty face. It was one of 90 plus fuelers trying to make the 64 car qualifying field. And driven by Larry Dixon Sr., it tied for low E.T. of the meet. This was its first major event.

 

Larry Dixon - "Smirnoff" - PDA Race at Lions, 1967
Photo from Steve Gibbs

 

From the tower at OCIR in 1967.
Steve Reyes photo

 

Larry Dixon during an afternoon qualifying session at OCIR in 1967.

 

During media session at OCIR in 1967.

 

 

 



 

"Smirnoff" - AA/FD - Puyallup, Washington in 1967.
Photo from Tom Willford

 

"Smirnoff" AA/FD sits in the pits at the US Nationals (Indy) on its only trip East in 1967. David Ray Photo

 

 

 

Don Prudhomme, Don Garlits, Dave Zeuschel and Darrell Greenamyer with the Smirnoff car in the pits at Indy during the 1967 US Nationals.
Don Prieto Photos

 

 

Dixon going head to head with James Warren.

 


Some nice shots by Paul Hutchins of the car in the pits at Beeline Dragway in Phoenix, AZ. during the 1968 AHRA Winternationals. Here is the late Dave Zeuschel tending to the potent 392 hemi power plant.

Daryl Greenamyer qualified The Smirnoff with a 7.76. Took out John Wiebe in the 1st round with 216, 7.43. Won 2nd round over Norm Weekly in "The Beachcombers" with a 7.24 at 216. Lost to Chuck Kurzawa in "The Ramchargers" in the 3rd round with a 7.32 at 222 to Kurzawa's 7.11 at 223.

 

A shot high-lighting the cars magnificent tail section.

 

 

This shot vividly shows just how "swoopy" the body lines/cockpit/tail were (are) on this beauty.

 

 

 

These three shots were taken during the 1968 NHRA Winternationals.
by Bob Wagner

 

 

 

Daryl checks the tire pressure on his Smirnoff car at the 1968 Winternationals. Dave Zeuschel sits on the push car behind Daryl.

 

Greenamyer smokes the tires at the hit - 1968 NHRA Winternationals.
Hot Rod Magazine

 

Staging lanes of the 1968 NHRA Winternationals.
Wayne Franks photo

 

Pits at Lions Drag Strip in 1968.
Paul Hutchins photos

 

1968 March Meet

 

 

Roy Fijasted was so proud of the Smirnoff car he used it on the cover of his 1968 Speed Products Engineering catalog.

 

At the end of the 1968 season Greenamyer repainted the car (the pearl white had yellowed) and ran it two more times. At Lions (above) and at the 1969 NHRA Winternationals.

 

 

Following the Winternationals he pulled the engine out of the car (sold it to a drag boat racer), and touching nothing else literally parked it in a bunker in the Mojave Desert where it would remain for 37 years. The three shots above are the only photo we've found of the car with the blue and white paint scheme it was retired with.

 

Orangeline

 

Restoration

 

With many knowing the Smirnoff car was still in tact, it was no secret that Greenamyer still had one of the most coveted pieces on the planet for those who restore history... not to mention cacklecars. Over the years several people tried to either get Daryl to restore it himself or sell it to someone who would. Until late summer of 2006 nobody had the "Right Stuff" to get Daryl to let the car go... until Joe Passalaqua somehow convinced him to sell the car (undisclosed amount) with the promise that it would be lovingly restored and actively displayed (i.e. a running cacklecar).

Passalaqua, who prefers to play a low key role in the car, enlisted cacklecar vets Bill Pitts and Rick MacDonald (MagiCar) to pick the car up and sort out what was there and determine what needed to be done to restore the car to its original beauty.

Our story starts with Pitts and MacDonald picking up the car in September of 2006 and taking it to Carlsbad, CA.

 

Here's a real thing of beauty to some. Bill and Rick were about ready to leave the place where they picked up the car. Daryl said they could look around for anything more that was connected with the car. So they just started digging through what Pitts called "allot of stuff" and wayyy in the corner, on a bottom shelf, was this. It's the original clutch and flywheel set up for the car. It looked brand new,  just 35 years old. They almost missed it.

 

MacDonald of "Pro Air" examines the car after they backed it into Passalaqua's garage. Rick was given the honor of building a fresh bullet for the car and handling all the mechanical details concerning its operation. Over the course of the restoration Joe will work with a host of other folks to bring back the car's true beauty. It's one-event paint job would be replaced with the original pearl white and candy blue Smirnoff scheme.

 

 

 

As stated earlier, the car (less engine) went literally untouched for 37 years. The chute folded in the seat from its last run. Here you can see the beautiful blue frame, the M/T mag rear end. The beautiful "Surfer Bob" wood butterfly steering wheel. The original parachute that was still just thrown in to the seat and left there. Cob webs and dust are everywhere.  Also here you can see the beautiful Tony Nancy upholstery that is in real fine shape. All the nuts and bolts from when they pulled the engine were still laying in the seat.

 

 

 

 

Here's a pretty good shot of the very unique Sorrell tail section.

 

Rick, carefully examining the mid-section of the car. It has some really nice "fine touches" that Roy Fijasted added. Note the steering link that proceeds to the mid-point of the frame and then moves inside the nose.

 

Joe Passalaqua, the car's new owner, with the original set up used by the team to fuel up the car. That stand has a filtered funnel at the top of it. The hose from the funnel, has a quick fit coupling on it that connects to the custom fuel tank that Joe is holding in his hand. The connection was made to the bottom/rear of the fuel tank and when it was full, nitro would flow out the overflow at the top/front of the tank. Must have been an aviator thing.

 

Here is a close up of just one corner of the cowl. You can see the level of dust that had built up on the car. Very cool decals, abound.

 

Orangeline

 

With the 2006 California Hot Rod Reunion less than a month away from the time they got the car, it was decided that it would be a cool thing to take the car to Bakersfield so people could see it exactly how it was found - nothing cleaned - nothing changed. So, into Gary and Jayne Fenstermaker's trailer it went.

 

 

John Weidler and Rick load the car in the trailer for Gary to secure.

 

 

 

 

In The Grove at Famoso Raceway the Smirnoff car sat all weekend for all to see. Dirt, dust, cobwebs and even a spider nest molesting the beauty beneath. One could suspect had it been a one-time movie star abandoned by the ages it would have been quite embarrassed by its current condition.

However, for those who know - it was still beautiful - dust and all. It would leave here and begin its rehabilitation. The world of drag racing would just have to wait for its return to glory at the 2007 CHRR.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orangeline

 

After Bakersfield the car was taken back to Passalaqua's garage and dismantled. The first thing on the agenda was the body. The chassis would follow.

 

With the body removed the original SPE SEMA stamp was visible. This is what we call an iron clad pedigree.

 

Dirty but straight.

 

Trick tail supports and chute mounts.

 

 

Surprisingly these were under the tail section. Not exactly where the sponsors would like them.

 

All body panels were stripped and sent to a metal man who took care of the cracks and other damage that occurred during Smirnoff's active racing life. A touch of body filler need to be used to add strength to a thin spot on the nose.

 

 

The upper tail just needed some minor repair work in various locations, especially the back edges.

 

 

Here's Joe showing the bottom of the tail section. This area had seen its share of damage from wheel stands. He got her all smoothed out and ready for the next step.

 

The repaired tail section. Sorrell's intricate work is alive and well.

 

Bell housing and support parts looking new.

 

 

Joe buffed out the custom "Surfer Bob" (Bob Knight) butterfly steering wheel (see ads below) and treated the wood to a fresh coat of spar varnish. The "butterfly" is amazingly thin. The shaft polished up just fine.

 

The "Surfer Bob" wheel on the Smirnoff digger is a "Malibu" design. A lot of Bob's wheels were custom built for each dragster that he did. His trademark, on most of the wheels, was a surfer riding a wave on the centerpiece. Knight made custom wheels for many of our 1/4 mile hero's. Some of the names he mentioned to me were Beebe & Mulligan, Surfers II, Prudhomme, Jesse Perkin's Cow Palace Shell, Muldowney, Billy Meyer, Herm Petersen and who knows who else.

 

 

Since the chassis needed no repairs it was sandblasted and powder coated. The other parts went sent out for re-chroming or anodizing.

 

As for the body paint, Joe was more than capable of doing that himself. Here it is in progress. Note there are no signs of dust and spiders anymore.

 

 

 

 

 

After the base white was done, using magazine photos and rulers Passalaqua figured the exact positioning and design of the original blue trim.

 

 

 

 

Joe marking off the pattern for paint on the nose.

 

The engine parts are coming together.

 

 

 

In 1967, a guy with the first name of Ruben was hired to paint the pearl paint job on Darrell Greenamyer's "Smirnoff Special". The car was pretty alright, but the beautiful trim work -- the stripes, the lettering, the ornate pin stripping, wasn't done by Ruben -- although he was the one that got credit for it all. The man that did all the ornate work was a guy by the name of Ted Miller out of Chula Vista, California. Ted worked with Robert Martinez on cars like "Poison Ivy", Bill Leavitt's "Quickie Two" and Joe Shubeck's Lakewood Chassis car with the rear suspension. Ted was a very talented guy.

Some of you might remember, in about 1965, the Drag News panel Truck. It was painted kind of a fluorescent green and red with "Drag News" on the side. Well, that was Ted's truck. Anyway Ted gradually faded from the drag racing scene, probably because his talents weren't needed after a while. The picture above is him working on Smirnoff in 1967. Ted did work with Tom Morris, and when Ted saw that Tom was fooling around with the old fuelers (namely the MagiCar), he asked him if he ever found any pictures of Smirnoff, he'd like to get some. Ted considered Smirnoff to be one of his favorite projects. Well, when we really started getting down to the short strokes (on Smirnoff) after the pearl paint was applied by Joe Passalaqua, and we were getting really nervous about having to take a stab at getting the ornate aspects of the paint job just right, up comes Mr. Morris with the connect to Ted Miller and we hoped Ted was still around to help us out. The bottom line is after 40 years of separation, the artist and the car were reunited at Joe's house in Escondido, California.

 

Here's Ted forty years later, ready to work his magic again and now he will get the credit he deserves.

As a side note, the swirly paint job on the top surfaces of the body? Not "tape fade" or anything done with a brush......it's drum wrap! THE STUFF YOU WRAP DRUMS WITH!
Joe immediately used the internet to make contact with the biggest manufacturer of drum wrap in the nation. He talked to a lady that had been working there forever. He showed her a picture of the drum wrap on the car in 1967 and she remembered, that style of drum wrap. It went out of production in the late 60's. The psychedelic era. BUT SHE HAD TWO ROLLS LEFT ON A DUST COVERED BACK SHELF!! Joe bought them both, but the latest information is that they aren't quite right, but if anybody can find the right stuff, it'll be Joe. And with the help of Ted, they'll get the magic back.

 

Ted Miller's first day back with Smirnoff. Keep in mind that he not only hadn't seen Smirnoff in 40 years, but he didn't even have any pictures of the car. So here he is walking in to a garage with the car as it was when he was called in to "go off on it" in 1967. This was pretty intense for Ted and his daughter Teddy. Here's Dad recalling and daughter learning about yet another amazing piece that her father embellished.

 


Ted carefully looked over all that Joe Passalaqua (the owner and painter) has on the car in terms of pictures.

 

Joe going over the paints he's using on the car to make sure that Ted is o.k. with every move he makes. Joe's very much going the distance when it comes to making this car perfect. It was at this point that Joe asked Ted about the infamous moniker that lies right in the middle of the nose section of the car. Every picture that Joe has helps him see the ornate work that Ted did -- everything BUT the moniker. The shots are just too far away to be able to see any real detail of it. So it was the only real question mark left on the project. Ted kind of leaned back trying to recall anything about the moniker and really didn't think he'd done one on this car. The photos just weren't close enough to make out anything of the ball of black ink in the middle of the nose. He was stymied!

 

Since Ted was stuck on that one, Joe moved him outside and shows him the white pearl in the sunlight so that he can see the gold shine through and also lets him decide on which of the two blues is best for the strips. But, the moniker was still on Ted's mind and he mentioned that there was a moniker that he did only a couple of times that was just his. He mentions that it had the word "king" in it. But that's all he could remember.

 

Joe whipped out the Smirnoff bottle he got on the internet. It's exactly like the one that was on the cowl. It's hard to see it in the shot that Ted is holding, but it's there. There's some interesting stories about that, as there is about everything that has to do with this car.

 

Ted, with brush in hand, next to what he worked on 40 years ago.

 

Mixed in with all the photos of the articles on Smirnoff was this one that showed the ever-so-slightest detail on the moniker. It's actually a shot to show the very front of the car, but off to the side, at an angle is the moniker right on the top/middle of the nose. And, it's at this point that Ted started grabbing up a recollection of the moniker and started to remember what it looked like.

 

Joe went and got one of the newly polished American "Daisy" wheels and let Ted see it and it is at that point that Ted picked up a Sharpie and brought back the missing piece. Using the end of the saw horse as his canvas, Ted pulled from the past the moniker they needed! It is of a king holding a paint brush with the work KING underneath it. It was his rarely use signature moniker! The original artist, living only 45 miles away, was almost missed.

06-04-07: We sadly report that Ted Miller will never have the chance to realize his dream of once again plying his artistry to the Smirnoff car as he passed away today from a long suffering illness. His craftsman ship and love of drag racing will be his legacy and he will be greatly missed.

 

06-25-07: The Smirnoff Project is once again gathering steam, after the terrible new of Ted Miller's passing. Joe Passalaqua, eases in on the blue strips that once accented this beautiful car. Thin tape at first to try and get things as correct as possible then thicker tape once everything looks smooth.

 

"A little to the left...." Rick MacDonald, of Pro Air, helps Joe get it right, as others hover at the nose.

 

Up at the nose, John Weidler, Rick's co-worker, and our own Jay Carpenter (looking away) give each line the once over. "Get over here, kid! You messed up! Just look at this...." Joe asked for it and the boys don't hold back! The car is loving it. Joe's ears are burning.

 

Time for a "photo op". (Left to Right) Joe Passalaqua, Rick MacDonald, Jay (Poison Ivy/The Syndicate) Carpenter, and John Weidler. These guys are enjoying every minute of this.

 

Then it's time for the full wrap and the blue strips are sprayed on. Joe's garage is turned in to a make shift spray booth.

 

 

 

 

 

With the Chrysler rear end housing and axles in place, Smirnoff waits for more. A fresh set of M&H meats will keep her up on her haunches. What lies just below the dust of 40 years, smacks of brilliance. A thoroughbred that tied for low e.t. at the first 64 car PDA race at Lions in 1967. Speed and beauty shining in the sun. This "rebuild ride" is a roller coaster of hopes and dreams, from years ago, that we can now reach out and touch. It's positively riveting!

 

 

 

 

Joe and John move to the front and begin to tie it all together.

 

 

New meats, Daisy Americans, and the front end up. Then-- deep in "the cave", Chubasco under wraps.

 

Out from under wraps comes the Frankenstein topped short block. The 6 quart cackle pan lost its leading edge in order to give her more ground clearance. With this low rider, every little bit will help.

 

 

Rick rolls #1 up to top dead center. The mic tells the tale, as the flat top's milled surface, stars the light.

 

 

Elsewhere on the grounds, a spare 392 awaits its turn on the stand.

 

08-02-07: Time for the lettering. Here's Bob Thompson handling the lettering and gold leaf phase of the project. Bob is the nicest man in the world. And is one skilled letterer to boot. As you'll be able to see, the old girl is starting to look like her young self again.

 

The gold leaf used for the car had to be acquired from back east. It's special stuff and not your average leaf. The CT Stroker decal being recreated as it was 40 years ago, by the late Ted Miller. Milodon and a bow tie for the Champion Spark Plug decal is seen here.

 

Engle Cams and the gold ball will have the SE of Sorrell Engineering.

 

Now for some depth. Ted was really good with get depth in his lettering. If you've ever seen Joe Shubeck's red '65 fueler, you'll know what I mean. Bob's doing a great job of bringing it back.

 

No---he didn't miss a spot on the bottom of that bell. The Pennzoil bell has a crack in it.

 

 

Some of the last writings of the late Ted Miller can be seen here. While he was recalling what the moniker looked like, he wrote down a list of the fuelers he'd lettered. They are:
Jerry Baltes' "Yellow Bird"
"Poison Ivy"
"Smirnoff"
Tommy Ivo's 4 Engine Buick Dragster
"Yellow Fang" Bushmaster
"Gentleman Joe" Shubeck's fueler '65
Cope Brothers "Red Dog"
Warren & Coburn '65 Fueler
Bill Levitt's "Quickie Two"
Jocko's Speed Liner (?) Hard to read.
"Clear Spark" Special
Sid Waterman's "Swinger II"
Bob William's Fueler
and a few more.
Now this is just off of this paper. Some of them we're not sure about, but most of them we are. He left his mark.

 

On the other side of the paper, you can see what he recalled about the Moniker. These notes were put down only a few days before he died. RIP Ted Miller.

 

Back to the car. Here's the frame fresh from the powder coaters. R.J. Little in San Diego did a bang up job. The frame is almost too pretty to cover up.

 

Joe stuck the nose on the frame and you can see what we're in for when she finally get's assembled for good. Long, low, and lean. This beauty will be quite a sight to see. It's just too bad she couldn't have made the Bixby Knolls event, for she tied for low e.t. at the very first PDA race, 40 years ago.

 

The incredible Air Brush work on the car was done by Mikhi. She Air Brushed the back ground colors and the realistic Smirnoff bottle. See more of her work on Mikhi.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It leaves you breathless!

 

Orangeline

 

After its extensive restoration, the Smirnoff car made its official debut at the 2007 California Hot Rod Reunion.

 

At the 2007 CHRR one car that had no shortage of attention was the Smirnoff AA/FD owned and restored by Joe Passelaqua.

 

 

 

 

 

Orangeline

 

John Weidler who was of great help to Joe in the restoration process was in the car for the pre-Cacklefest Parade. Unfortunately Passalaqua must have put too much vodka in the tank as the engine seized the exhaust valve guides (bending 7 valves) on a Friday fireup and they were unable to fix it for Cacklefest but graced the fans with an appearance for the parade. New car woes won't stop this baby next time out.